Culture of Jamaica

Reggae, rainforests, beaches and jerk have all placed Jamaica firmly on the map and this Caribbean island is simply brimming with culture.

Due to years of colonisation, the island plays host to many different religions – from Islam to Judaism – and boasts more churches per square mile than anywhere else on the planet. You’ll soon be falling into the laid back way of life, feasting on authentic cuisine and soaking up the local traditions.

Jamaican cuisine

From the Indian influence dominant in curry dishes to the native inhabitants jerk-spice creation, the array of sumptuous dishes found across Jamaica directly reflect the diverse cultures found across the island.

Whether you’re visiting a roadside shack or a high-class restaurant, jerk chicken is sure to be on the menu. You’ll find plenty of other traditional offerings from curried goat, patties, rice and peas and fried plantain, all flavoured with spices such as ginger, nutmeg and allspice.

The national dish is ackee and saltfish and is popular to eat for breakfast or as a snack during the day. The saltfish is usually dried cod which is soaked in water before cooking in one pot with the ackee fruit, onions, sweet and hot peppers and fresh tomatoes.

Surrounded by the warm and transparent Caribbean Sea, seafood is also plentiful with jackfish, red snapper and lobsters as regular catches.

Red Stripe and rum punch frequent almost every bar, and you’ll find fresh coconut water served straight from the nut as you lounge along the beach. Freshly-made ginger beer is another favourite with the locals and the coffee comes straight from Jamaica’s Blue Mountain range.

The music of the soul

Jamaicans and music are inseparable. The Reggae culture has been depicted as the official culture of the island and it plays many roles, enabling many Jamaicans to define themselves and celebrate their nationalism.

Back in the 60s, Bob Marley put Jamaica on the music map and became one of reggae’s best known contributors and now enjoys an entire museum dedicated to him in Kingston. Located in his original studio, visitors are invited to explore the musicians personal treasures and grab a bite to eat at the One Love cafe.

It’s not all reggae though – calypso music is widely popular which originated from neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago.

Mento, ska, dancehall, dub and rocksteady are other genres you may hear pumping from boom boxes along the beach but far from the complete list of musical treasures you’ll find on this unique island.

Cultural celebrations

The Jamaicans have a lot to celebrate and from mouth-watering food festivals to jamming music offerings, visitors can experience the essence of Jamaican culture during the year-round festivities.

Celebrating over 200 years of peace between the Maroons and the British, the Accompong Maroon Festival takes place on the 6th January, marking the victory of the First Maroon War where they fought for their freedom led my Captain Cudjoe. Celebrations include traditional singing, dancing, storytelling and cooking and are located in St. Elizabeth.

The annual Bob Marley birthday celebrations take place from 1st to the 6th of February each year in Negril and feature international reggae artists paying homage to one of the island’s music legends with authentic street food and parties across the town.

Meanwhile Carnival is one of the biggest and most famous cultural celebrations starting in early January and running through to Easter with the celebrations accumulating in Kingston.

Brightly coloured floats and elaborate costumes adorn the streets for the finale with the whole period featuring plenty of high energy events from beach parties to weekly mas camps.

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